Business Intelligence Capabilities
Business Intelligence (BI) is a term used to describe the applications and technologies used to collect, distribute, and analyze data concerning company operations, customer buying patterns, financials, and industry movement. Well-conceived BI solutions provide companies with timely, reliable and comprehensive knowledge of the factors directly affecting their business (sales metrics, production capacity, internal operations, market trends, key performance indicators, etc.).
RDA has a team of experienced business intelligence specialists who are trained and certified in designing and developing BI solutions using Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 and other toolsets. We have established a long track record of successful BI engagements. RDA can be trusted to deliver excellent results.
RDA offers the following services related to Business Intelligence:
- Architectural Guidance (Data Modeling and Design)
- Business Intelligence Development (staff augmentation and full software development lifecycle)
- Data Warehousing
- SQL Server Integration Services
- SQL Server Analysis Services
- SQL Server Reporting Services
- Dashboards and Scorecards
- Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007
- Project Management
- Data Migration
- Performance Tuning
- SQL Server Version Upgrades
- Organizational Business Intelligence Assessment
- Proofs of Concept
- Business Intelligence Training and Seminars
By delivering well-implemented business intelligence solutions that provide access to reliable data on demand, RDA’s customers have been able to more effectively use the data generated by their transactional and operational business processes to monitor the overall health of the business and make informed strategic decisions. This has led to operational cost savings, improved profitability, increased productivity and more successfully managed businesses for these customers.
The need for actionable data drives nearly all BI solutions. The ability to access, analyze, forecast, report on, and share data in order to achieve corporate objectives is critical if a BI solution is to fulfill its promise. It must be flexible and functional enough to extend from the individual to the team to the entire organization and must accommodate the different needs of people and roles within the organization. It should also incorporate all the types of information, both structured and unstructured, that is used to make decisions.
This all starts with the data warehouse. A data warehouse is the store that brings together critical business information and makes it much easier to get this information into the right hands. When designed correctly, a data warehouse enables detailed, on-demand data analysis and reporting on historical and current performance data without impacting the performance of an organization’s online transaction processing (OLTP) systems.
Without a data warehouse, a comprehensive business intelligence solution cannot be achieved. In most organizations without a data warehouse solution, the key operational or performance data resides on multiple technology platforms, in multiple databases, in a variety of disparate systems and originates from multiple sources. Data tends to be difficult to aggregate. Reporting is labor-intensive and not repeatable. Analysis is often conducted using a variety of tools and methodologies; In short, there is no single reliable source of business intelligence.
RDA has solved these problems for a number of clients by designing and developing complex, high-performance, scalable data warehouses using the Microsoft SQL Server platform.
RDA can offer a workshop to provide more insight into business intelligence solutions, including the value of an enterprise data warehouse. We can also conduct an architectural assessment where your company can leverage the experience of RDA’s consultants to help guide your business.
Data integration is often the most expensive part of developing a business intelligence solution. In addition to moving data from one system to another, data integration often includes applying basic business logic to ensure the data is properly formatted, transforming the data into another structure to optimize performance, removing data that is not required and loading data into structures that many times differ greatly from those of the source system. Relying on manual processes or ‘living with’ bad data has a detrimental impact on most businesses. Therefore, the appropriate toolset is critical in order to efficiently and accurately extract and transform data from a source system and load it into a destination data store. RDA’s consultants are experts in the use of Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), which provides a scalable, extensible framework that allows you to easily and quickly integrate data from virtually any source and perform complex data extraction, transformation, and loads (ETL) at high speeds and in a continuous environment for large data volumes.
RDA has leveraged SSIS and SQL Server to build, manage and maintain data warehouse solutions for a number of high profile clients with complex data integration challenges and strict performance requirements. These clients have benefited from the definition and implementation of automated, repeatable processes that reliably consolidate critical business intelligence data. In many cases, they have been able to eliminate costly manual data scrubbing processes as well as gain additional value from systems that in many cases were previously standalone or devalued due to the effort required to extract data.
Most traditional database systems are not designed or constructed with the primary function of analysis in mind. More often, a database system is developed as part of a transactional or operational solution and analysis requirements evolve over time as the need to assess the performance of the business emerges. As a result, many organizations try to simply augment their existing solution by adding additional data acquisition processes, creating additional copies of data dedicated to analysis activities, or simply building analysis and reporting solutions on top of the existing system and living with the implications. As a result, these organizations are often left with difficult to maintain and poorly performing systems and analytical toolsets that are not well-suited to their needs.
OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) presents and stores data in a format that is optimized for the in-depth analysis and questions of the target business audience. An OLAP engine takes data from a single source or multiple sources and reorganizes it into a structure based on fact data and its related dimensions. It may also provide calculations that measure the data. OLAP provides a more intuitive and efficient means of conducting analysis than the traditional database design.
SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) provides a framework for storing data and related business rules in an OLAP format that is optimized for rapid query and analysis and from which you can easily generate and store key performance indicators (KPI). These indicators are often used to compose corporate scorecards or dashboards through Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, published to the Web via SharePoint or embedded into documents created in Microsoft PowerPoint, Word or Excel.
RDA can help your organization utilize SQL Server Analysis Services to design OLAP solutions. We have created critical KPI data for many organizations spanning a variety of industries, including entertainment, financial services, publishing and manufacturing.
An enterprise reporting solution is critical if an organization must deliver numerous reports to many decision makers. It is imperative that such a solution provide reliable data on demand to its business audience. In addition, maintaining the solution to support the dynamic reporting requirements of the typical organization must not be cost prohibitive. RDA has assisted its clients in realizing the benefits of attractive, well-defined reports. Using Microsoft’s SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and Business Intelligence Development Studio, highly formatted dynamic reports can be developed to support virtually any number of presentation requirements.
RDA’s past experience covers a broad scope of engagements and requirements, including parameterized reports, the creation of complex tabular and matrix reports with multiple levels of drilldown or drill through capabilities, the development of Reporting Services delivery and rendering extensions, and extensive use of the Reporting Services APIs. In addition, RDA has designed, developed and deployed a number of custom applications that provide high volume ad-hoc reporting solutions against enterprise data warehouses.
Scorecards and Dashboards
Scorecards and dashboards are intended to provide at-a-glance insight into the performance of an individual, group, or organization. Scorecards are essentially a visual representation of a company’s strategy. They provide an organized view of all the key performance indicators (KPIs) of organizational objectives and strategy, showing current status, plans, and trends. They also help align everyone in an organization to common goals and prescribed objectives.
Dashboards are a collection of graphs, reports, KPIs, and analyses that help monitor progress against specific initiatives. Often, a dashboard can contain a scorecard, information from a scorecard, or a subset of the scorecard. To provide deeper context to support the scorecard, dashboards may also contain additional relevant information, including reports, graphs, strategy maps, other analytical tools, and even unstructured documents.
By adopting the use of scorecards and dashboards for monitoring, companies move from having a ‘gut feel’ for how they are performing to using a standard set of visual evidence based on data from a trusted source (the enterprise data warehouse) to evaluate progress against organizational initiatives.
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 are ideal solutions for publishing scorecards and dashboards that are to be made available on demand through the Web. Microsoft PerformancePoint Server 2007 delivers a set of tools for designing and managing dashboards and their elements and for easily publishing to MOSS or WSS. RDA is an acknowledged leader in SharePoint implementation services and has leveraged its expertise and experience in implementing dozens of dashboard and scorecard solutions using MOSS, PerformancePoint and data warehouses on SQL Server. Please contact RDA for more information regarding our expertise in this area.
Performance management is used to describe an organization’s effort to monitor and analyze their business based on actual operational and performance data and to plan strategically in order to realize corporate goals. Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 builds on the familiar Microsoft Office environment and complements Microsoft SQL Server to deliver a comprehensive solution that includes the three critical components of performance management:
- Monitoring: Provides scorecards, dashboards, and KPIs to help drive accountability and alignment across the organization.
- Analytics: Integrated tools for analytics help quickly move the business user from monitoring information to analyzing it and sharing it throughout the organization.
- Planning: A flexible framework that offers business planning, budgeting, and forecasting and management reporting functionality to support business processes and strategic decision making.
Although PerformancePoint is a relatively recent addition to the Microsoft BI toolset, RDA has aggressively worked to build its capabilities with this product – working directly with Microsoft on a number of opportunities and being actively involved with the product’s development since its early beta and preview releases. RDA has been engaged by a number of clients already to help evaluate and implement PerformancePoint Server solutions in the enterprise.
RDA is very interested in hearing more about your organization’s business intelligence requirements and discussing how we can leverage our extensive knowledge of business intelligence solutions to help reduce the complexity of gathering and distributing information, enable better business decisions, and improve your bottom line.